Monthly Archives: September 2019

Cassidese Glossary – Hoodoo

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

According to Cassidy, the term ‘hoodoo’ derives from an Irish expression uath dubh, which according to Cassidy means:

Uath Dubh, (pron. h-úŏ doo): dark specter, evil phantom, a malevolent thing; horror, dread; a dark, spiky, evil-looking thing. Uath, n., a form or shape; a spectre or phantom; dread, terror, hate. Old Gaelic name for the hawthorn. Dubh, (pron. doo, duv), adj., dark; black; malevolent, evil; wicked; angry, sinister; gloomy, melancholy; strange, unknown.

(O’Donaill, 457, 1294; Dineen, 374, 1287; De Bhaldraithe, English-Irish Dictionary, 755; Dwelly, 988)

Looking at this list of dictionaries, you would think that Cassidy had actually found the phrase uath dubh recorded in one or all of them. In fact, no dictionary records the phrase uath dubh. Uath is in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, where it is described as a literary term meaning fear or horror (for literary, read ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘not in current use.’) It is also given in Dineen, where it is defined as:

A form or shape, a spectre or phantom; dread, terror; hate.

It is not found in De Bhaldraithe, which is an English-Irish dictionary and seems to have been thrown in to make the list of references look more impressive. Dwelly is a Scottish Gaelic dictionary and therefore quite irrelevant in this context.

There is also another old-fashioned term uath, an entirely different word, which means the whitethorn bush.

So, the situation is this. The first part of Cassidy’s definition above (Uath Dubh, (pron. h-úŏ doo): dark specter, evil phantom, a malevolent thing; horror, dread; a dark, spiky, evil-looking thing) was invented by Cassidy. And not only is the supposed Irish source of ‘hoodoo’ not in any dictionary or any other source, Cassidy mixes up two quite separate words and throws in the adjective spiky for good measure because a whitethorn bush is spiky!

The real origins of hoodoo are unknown but there is no evidence that it is an Irish or Hiberno-English phrase.

Cassidese Glossary – Honky

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

The term honky is used as a pejorative term for a white person in America. There is no agreement about its origins. Some of the theories are discussed here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honky

Cassidy derives it (he derives hunky, hinky and honky-tonk from the same word!) from the Irish word aingí, an adjective defined by Ó Dónaill in his Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla as malignant, peevish or fretful. There is nothing in the history of the word honky to suggest that it is from Irish or that it has anything to do with bad temper or peevishness, and the sound of aingí (an-gee – it doesn’t begin with a h- sound) isn’t close to the sound of English honky either.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Holy Moly

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

This is another strange and deeply unlikely etymology proposed by Daniel Cassidy in his book How The Irish Invented Slang. This is clearly another minced oath (a disguised curse or blasphemy). In this case, it is almost certainly a corruption of Holy Mary. This has become Holy Molly (a common form of Mary in Ireland) and then it has been altered to rhyme with holy, so that it became Holy Moly.

Cassidy denies this and claims that it comes from a mixed English and Irish phrase, Holy Moladh, where moladh means praise. There is no evidence of anyone ever using Moladh Naofa! or Moladh! or any other phrase with moladh in the Irish language as an exclamation, so there is absolutely no evidence for Cassidy’s claim here. The word moladh is pronounced molloo or molla, depending on dialect, so it is no great match for Moly in terms of sound either.

Cassidese Glossary – Holy Mackerel

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

The expression Holy Mackerel dates back to 1803. Holy Mackerel, as we’ve said before, belongs to a class of exclamations called minced oaths, where a similar word is said in order to avoid a vulgar or blasphemous term. Thus, the French say Sacré Bleu (Holy Blue) to avoid saying Sacré Dieu (Holy God), and the Irish say Dar Fia (by the deer) instead of Dar Dia (by God). Holy Mackerel is probably a minced oath for ‘Holy Mary’. Mackerel is particularly appropriate because the mackerel is associated with Roman Catholics – people of the Catholic tradition tend to eat fish on a Friday instead of meat, and mackerel was a common choice. Mackerelism was used as a pejorative slang term for Catholicism in the 19th century.

Daniel Cassidy claimed that this was wrong and that it derives from an Irish phrase mac ríúil – ‘kingly son’. In other words, it was supposedly something to do with Jesus. The problem is that while mac rí (son of a king) is a common phrase for a prince in Irish, mac ríúil is not a genuine Irish phrase. By definition, a prince is a mac rí. But princes are princely, not kingly and ríúil means kingly, not royal. That’s another word, ríoga. There is no evidence for mac ríúil (or the older spelling mac righiúil) existing in the Irish language as a term for a prince, or for Jesus, or indeed, for anything else. It is completely fake.

Cassidese Glossary – Holy Gee

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Once again, this is a minced oath, a way of avoiding an offensive or blasphemous expression by disguising it. The first letter of God – G – is used instead of the whole word. Cassidy claimed that this is not the letter G but the Irish Dia, (pronounced jeea), meaning God. This is most unlikely. Dia is used in exclamations but only in phrases like Dia ár sábháil (God our saviour) or in vocative expressions like a Dhia (pronounced a yeea). There is little chance of either of these yielding Gee in English and of course, the English explanation that it is the letter G makes perfect sense.

Cassidese Glossary – Holy Cow

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Holy Cow is a ‘minced oath’, a way of avoiding a blasphemous or offensive expression by using a similar word, or a word beginning with the same sound. This is thought to be a version of ‘Holy Christ’, but was probably influenced by the sacredness of cows in the Hindu tradition.

To Cassidy, it represents a mixed Irish and English oath, Holy Cathú. (Originally, he had claimed that the Holy represents the Irish oille meaning greatness but he had dropped this claim by the time the book was published.) Cathú usually means temptation in modern Irish, though it has other meanings like rebellion, grief, fighting. I presume the meaning of temptation came about through the idea of rebellion against God, as the root of the word is cath, meaning battle.

Cathú is pronounced kahoo. It is not used as an exclamation in Irish. People do not say ‘Cathú Naofa’ in the Irish language. Cassidy once again demonstrates his lack of Irish by miscopying the phrase ‘Mo chathú é’ from Dinneen’s dictionary as ‘Mo cathú é’. This phrase seems to exist but is only found in one source from 1909, so it is hardly a common expression.

Cassidese Glossary – Holler

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Another claim in Daniel Cassidy’s absurd book How The Irish Invented Slang is the one about the word ‘holler’. This is an American term found in places like the Appalachians. The dictionary experts regard it as a variant of a word ‘hollow’ (meaning to shout) which is attested in English from the 16th century. In the dialect of areas like the Appalachians, the word hollow as in small dale or depression is also pronounced holler.

Daniel Cassidy will have none of it. According to Cassidy, this word comes from the Irish ollbhúir. This word is very uncommon, though it does actually exist in Irish, unlike most of Cassidy’s ‘Irish’ originals. It is found in Dinneen’s dictionary but not in the main modern dictionary by Niall Ó Dónaill. It is pronounced oll-woor or olloor. Cassidy thought that all Irish words beginning with a vowel have a h sound before them but this is not true.

If anyone thinks that it’s too much of a coincidence that an obscure Irish word (slightly) resembles holler, then I should point out that it’s also a remarkable coincidence that Spanish has haullar (to howl), French has hurler (to shout), German has heulen (to howl), Dutch has huilen (to howl) and that all of these words are far more common in their respective languages than ollbhúir is in Irish.

Cassidese Glossary – Hokum

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Hokum basically means highly commercial material in a book or film or play, stuff that has been inserted simply because it’s frightening or funny or otherwise entertaining. If a film is described as hokum, it means that it is crowd-pleasing nonsense rather than art.

There is no agreement about where the term comes from. You can find a brief account of the known facts here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/hokum

The usual claim is that it was formed on the basis of bunkum and is perhaps a mixture of that word and hocus-pocus. I had always assumed that this word was something to do with oakum, the picked-out fibres of old ropes used with tar to caulk ships. When I looked on line, I found that this claim is quite common. A man called Walter J. Kingsley, an enthusiastic etymologist (but apparently one with low standards of scholarship), claimed that a Cockney former ship’s captain became manager of the Middlesex Music Hall in London and wherever a show had a weak section, he would recommend plugging it with a bit of (h)oakum. I rather like this story, but it does lack evidence, certainly.

Cassidy claimed that hokum comes from the ‘Irish’ ollchumadh, which he defines as ‘a huge made-up story, a vast invention; fig. a lengthy ad lib or improvisation’. It is true that oll- is a prefix meaning huge or gigantic, while cumadh is the verbal noun of a verb meaning composition or making up. However, ollchumadh is not recorded in any Irish text or dictionary. Cassidy had no evidence that anyone had ever used it to mean anything. It sounds very different from hokum (it is pronounced ollhommoo).

Cassidy says in his book that hokum is first cousin to bunkum, which he derives from buanchumadh. Of course, buanchumadh is a cousin of ollchumadh in a sense, in that it is another word made up by Cassidy for which no evidence exists.

Cassidese Glossary – Hoax, Hocus

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

The word hoax has a well-established origin in English. Hoax derives from an earlier word hocus, which meant to confuse, befuddle, drug or trick someone. Hocus almost certainly derives from hocus pocus, a garbled version of Latin hoc est corpus. Hocus has been around for hundreds of years, while hoax is more recent.

Cassidy doesn’t accept this. He prefers a derivation from the Irish olcas, which is pronounced olkass. (Not holkas) It doesn’t sound much like hoax. And does it mean the same thing as a hoax? No, it means badness or wickedness. Hoaxes are sometimes evil and wicked. Sometimes they are just playful. But they always involve the notion of dishonesty, of tricking people. In Irish, the words bob (as in bob a bhualadh ar dhuine, to play a practical joke on someone) or cleas (as in cleas a imirt ar dhuine, to play a trick on someone) would be the usual words for hoax. Not olcas. I should also point out that olcas is an abstract noun, not an adjective as Cassidy states.

Cassidese Glossary – Hinky

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Hinky is apparently an American slang term for nervous or jumpy and by extension, it can describe someone who is acting suspiciously. It dates back to the 1950s and there is no agreement about its origins. Some etymologies are discussed here:

What’s the origin of “hinky”?


However, to the late Daniel Cassidy, any word without a clear origin was automatically a hidden piece of Irish. Hinky is no exception. According to Cassidy, this derives from the Irish ainigí, meaning ‘wicked, bad, nervous, fretful or peevish’. This is actually aingí, not ainigí (which is given by Dinneen as a poetic variant). It is not pronounced with a h-. It is pronounced anniggee or anggee, which doesn’t sound much like hinky. It is defined by Ó Dónaill as:

aingí, a3. 1. Malignant. 2. Peevish, fretful. Leanbh, seanduine, ~, a peevish child, old man. (Var:~och)

This is not a bad match for the meaning but the sound is not a good match and the word is first found in English a long time after the period when there were huge numbers of Irish speakers in the slums of America. In other words, it’s better than Cassidy’s usual standard but still very, very improbable.